The World Food Prize Foundation

2005: Gupta

Dr. Modadugu Gupta


DR. MODADUGU V. GUPTA WAS NAMED the 2005 World Food Prize Laureate for his exceptional achievement in enriching the diets and lives of the world’s most impoverished families.  As a prime architect of a “blue revolution” in Asia and around the globe, Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta has increased the protein and mineral content in the diets of over one million of the world’s most impoverished families. His promotion of aquaculture has contributed to the economic and social empowerment of men and women in poor and rural areas where most lack the means to improve their own lives. Dedicated to improving the world’s fish supply, Dr. Gupta has built a global network of like-minded scientists, managers, and leaders. The millions whom his work has impacted span several continents and range from international experts to landless farmers.


Full Biography

Born in India in 1939, Dr. Gupta began his career there in 1962 researching how to bring the benefits of fish production to poor farmers. After assessing the physical and social resources accessible in impoverished areas, Dr. Gupta developed two exceptional approaches for increasing fish harvests among the very poor. He taught poor and landless people to recycle farm wastes such as rice bran, weeds, and manure to support and grow larger fish stock, and he advocated the polyculture technique of raising multiple species of fish in one pond habitat to effectively feed and harvest more varieties of fish with higher nutritional value.

Using techniques based on the work of Dr. Gupta and his colleagues, poor farmers and rural families across a large swath of South and Southeast Asia (including areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Indonesia) have turned abandoned ponds, roadside ditches, seasonally flooded fields, and other bodies of water as small as 300-400 square meters into "mini-factories" churning out fish for food and income. To give an example, over 150,000 seasonal ponds in Bangladesh which were lying fallow before Dr. Gupta's intervention are now blooming with fish. 

In the early 1970s, Dr. Gupta brought these low-cost approaches to Southeast Asia, where he also identified several carp species native to India as being well adapted to the Mekong River environment. By training farmers and scientists to breed and support the new species, Dr. Gupta was instrumental in increasing fish yields and rural incomes as farmers and consumers alike attempted to recover from the impact of the Vietnam War.

More breakthroughs came in Bangladesh in the 1980s, where he identified over a million ponds, roadside canals and ditches, and seasonally flooded pools as potential water resources that were at the time untapped by fish producers. He also enlisted nongovernmental organizations in branching out to small farmers and specifically to women as means to ensure the sustainable practice of effective aquaculture.

Asia’s poorest fish farmers can now provide nutrition for their families with enough fish left to bring in added income. His novel techniques increased average annual fish production in India from barely 0.5 tons per hectare in the early 1970s to between 2 to 10 tons per hectare. The carp varieties he introduced in Vietnam currently make up 30 to 40 percent of all freshwater fish production.

Dr. Gupta’s technologies boosted Bangladesh’s fish yields from 304 kilograms per hectare to over 2,500 kilograms per hectare in less than a year – including 1,000 kilogram per hectare harvests in the dry season. Thanks to his innovations, fish production in Bangladesh continued to grow by 300% during the 1990s. By bringing the percentage of Bangladeshi women involved in aquaculture from virtually zero to about 60%, Dr. Gupta has further ensured the long-term economic and social stability of rural communities based in fish farming.

His coordination of the International Network on Genetics in Aquaculture spread aquatic biodiversity across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, allowed leading researchers to coordinate their efforts under new biosafety protection protocols, and trained roughly 300 scientists from developing countries in continuing the development of sustainable and effective fish production strategies.

Dr. Gupta has been a lifelong catalyst in expanding the global reach and effectiveness of aquaculture. His achievements include scientific breakthroughs as well as innovative implementation practices. He did not merely bring fish to many destitute families and countries, but by teaching many of them how they could raise bigger fish, he has literally enhanced nutrition for and fed millions and millions of the poorest people in the world.

Dr. Gupta retired from The WorldFish Center in 2004. Since that time, he has been advising many organisations/institutions. He has received honorary doctorate degrees and elected as distinguished fellow of many scientific societies/academies.

In 2015 he was a co-recipient of the first Sunhak Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Gupta said: "I believed throughout my career that all the advanced fish farming technology which we created in laboratories should be taken to people. Then and only then can it make a difference in their lives."

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